GALVESTON — You’d think a movie titled “Galveston” and based on a novel that describes the city as a “battered seascape” of “fleabag hotels,” “treacherous drifters” and “ashed-out hopes,” would make island tourism officials cringe.
But that’s far from the case. Officials hope the movie, based on Nic Pizzolatto’s critically acclaimed detective noir novel “Galveston,” is filmed here, no matter how fictional or unflattering.
After all, the seaport city has a history of capitalizing on an undercurrent of darkness — pirates and gambling, to name a couple — even as it promotes sun, beaches and family fun.
“Galveston has a gritty past and it sort of adds to the legend,” Bryan Kunz, special events manager/film liaison for the Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau, said.
New York-based Jean Doumanian Productions late last month announced it would make a movie version of the novel, stirring speculation about where it might be filmed.
Representatives of Jean Doumanian Productions this week responded to email inquiries with this statement: “Filming details, including the location, haven’t been sorted yet.”
So, while Galveston isn’t a sure bet for filming, it hasn’t been ruled out.
The novel “Galveston” follows Roy Cady, who, on the same day he’s diagnosed with a terminal illness, senses his boss, a dangerous loan-sharking bar-owner, wants him dead. He leaves New Orleans for Galveston as Hurricane Ike develops. According to the book’s cover, “Roy, Rocky and her sister hide in the battered seascape of Galveston’s country-western bars and fleabag hotels, a world of treacherous drifters, pickup trucks and ashed-out hopes.”
Galveston’s chances of being selected for the filming location may be good. Several movies and commercials have been filmed here, including “The Evening Star,” a sequel to the Academy Award-winning “Terms of Endearment,” starring Shirley MacLaine.
“Galveston has a tremendous variety of unique locations,” Kunz said. “We have the beach, downtown historic architecture, people have used the hospital as a location — it’s the proximity of a variety of unique locations that provides the appeal.”
Even unflattering portrayals of cities can boost tourism, Galveston Island Convention & Visitors Bureau spokeswoman Leah Cast said.
Cast points to AMC’s popular TV show “Breaking Bad,” which finished its fifth and final season last year. “Breaking Bad,” filmed and set in Albuquerque, N.M., was a dark portrayal of a fictional former high school chemistry teacher Walter White, who, after being diagnosed with lung cancer, teams up with a former student to manufacture and sell high-quality crystal meth.
The show provided a boost to Albuquerque’s economy, “creating a dilemma for local tourism officials as they walk the fine line of profiting from a show that centers around drug trafficking, addiction and violence,” according to March 2013 report in the Huffington Post.
Having Galveston’s name in a national spotlight is good for the island, Cast said. Movies and TV shows can generate buzz and spark curiosity about the cities they portray, she said. And most people can distinguish fact from fiction, Cast said.
The city also would benefit from film crews being on the island booking hotel rooms, visiting restaurants and driving other economic benefits, Cast said.
But while the city would welcome filming here, it doesn’t directly solicit such productions, nor does it offer financial enticements. City officials, such as Kunz, would assist crews with permits and other needs, Cast said.
Pizzolatto also created, wrote and serves as executive producer and showrunner on the new HBO series “True Detective,” starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey. That series is set and shot in Louisiana.
Matthias Schoenaerts, who starred in “Bullhead” and in “Rust and Bone” will lead the “Galveston” cast as Roy.
Shooting of “Galveston” is planned to commence in the spring.
Island on the screen
Galveston has been the location of many film productions over the years. Here are the more notable ones:
Motion Pictures and TV
Paris, Texas (1984)
Night Game (1989)
The Evening Star (1996)
Prison Break (2007)
The Little Couple (2009-2013)
Walking Distance (2010)
American Idol (2012)
Ghost Hunters (2012)
Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern (2013)
Catfish: The TV Show (2013)
Hasbro Toys (2013)
Texas Lottery Commission (2013)
Joe’s Crab Shack (2013, 2014)